Book Review: The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire


by Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. Pp. xxiv, 456. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $37.50. ISBN: 0300191073

A Ground-Breaking Look at the British Leaders in the American Revolution

Noted Jefferson scholar O’Shaughnessy takes a look at the ten men most important British actors in the American Revolution, both civil and military, King George III, of course, the politicians Lord North and George Germaine, and several naval and military officers, Lord Howe and his brother William, John Burgoyne, Henry Clinton, Charles Cornwallis, George Rodney, and the Earl of Sandwich. 

A few of O’Shaughnessy’s profiles will surprise some readers.  King George comes off rather better than in most traditional accounts, which still rely heavily on American propaganda.  O’Shaughnessy also demonstrates that the British commanders – and their troops -- were much more capable than the bumblers of Patriotic lore, and reminds us that the war was not won by farmers hiding behind trees, but by the well trained regulars who fought the major battles.  Lord North and George Germain, however, still don’t fare very well, being too hard headed and inept to understand the point of the Revolution.  This treatment naturally takes into account the actions of other less famous actors, and O’Shaughnessy does a very good job of fitting the confrontation between the American colonists and the Crown into the larger political and strategic picture. 

A volume in Yale’s “Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History”, The Men Who Lost America should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in the American Revolution, and of value even to the more casual student of the war.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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